Things have been so busy since we returned home that we haven’t had much opportunity to get the kids into setting where they can speak and hear Chinese. We haven’t even found time to sit them in front of the television for 30 minutes of Chinese language programming. For some reason, observing the visible decline in how much Chinese they are using (they started out playing almost exclusively in Chinese and frequently singing in the language but now – already- we hear very little from them) leaves me with this feeling of dread, panic and sadness. Short of moving there is really so little I feel I can do to help them retain the language. When I am playing with them, I use my limited Chinese but sometimes they find that annoying.
My feelings of hopelessness and loss were not helped by our conversation with someone at the Burlington Chinese School. We explained that we were looking for something for the kids. The representative said that they had a play group but that our kids were too young. But then we explained that our kids were immersed in the language for 10 months and could speak it well. At this point he told us that our kids were too advanced. We’ll give it a try in the fall but I am not optimistic.
On the bright side, this week we did get together with some Montpelierites who speak Chinese – a woman from Taiwan, her husband and their 2 year old son. They speak Chinese almost exclusively at home. We are going to have playgroup and child care swaps which will work well. The very next day we got together with another friend, someone from the Law School, who speaks Chinese. I was happy to see how willing the kids were to speak in Chinese with her. It seemed that they were open to having a more bilingual conversation. This is new, especially for Jie-jie who seems to always want to be speaking one language or the other but up to now has not comfortable moving between them.